Preeclampsia – is a condition responsible for one in five maternal deaths. It’s a complication that results in very high blood pressure. First described in 500 BC
- Traditionally it has been blamed on the placenta – the placental hypothesis states that the baby grows ineffectively as well as the micro-issues seen in the tissue a swell as removing the placenta relieves the preeclampsia.
- The heart and placenta work like a pump and a radiator – the radiator/placenta needs the heart/pump to work well and vice versa
Dr Basky Thilaganathan thinks there is a different underlying root cause:
- Most women in fact did not have anything wrong with the placenta and had babies normal in size. But you do have to have a placenta to develop it.
- Women who develop preeclampsia are 5 times more likely to develop heart disease or stroke in the subsequent 20-30 years.
- In fact, 2 out of 3 women who develop preeclampsia will die from heart disease.
- So the question is how does the placenta that was removed 20-30 years ago have such a profound effect on the mothers heart??
- Dr Thilaganathan started to see parallels with another disease that devlops in pregnancy – Gestational Diabetes – the mothers pancreas is unable to deal with the sugar load of pregnancy so diabetes occurs – interestingly diabetes in pregnancy is cured by delivery of the baby as well. But women who develop diabetes in pregnancy have 50% increased risk of developing diabetes in the subsequent 10 years.
So it seems logical that preeclampsia is a condition that has nothing to do with the placenta and rather that the issue is that the mothers heart is unable to deal with the vascular load of pregnancy.
- Did you know that a young elite athlete taking on a training load will increase the weight of her/his heart 25% over a 2-year period.
Pregnancy Heart Facts:
- During Pregnancy a Mother – by 9 months of pregnancy will increase her heart mass by 40% as well as a 25% increase in trabeculations more than our best and most elite sportsmen
- Note an elite athlete will exercise 10-15 hours a week and rest accordingly
- A pregnant mother will be ‘exercising’ 24 hours per day 7 days a week for 9 months and increasingly slow with no rest even when she sleeps.
- We need to acknowledge that pregnancy is a truly Olympian feat.
- We are not all Olympians – so its not surprising that 10-15% of women struggle to cope with the vascular load of pregnancy.
Symptoms of Pregnancy as you go along:
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen ankles
- Chronic lack of energy
- Increased urination at night
- Difficulty sleeping due to breathing problems
- Confusion and memory loss
Is it a coincidence that the symptoms of heart failure are exactly the same as above?
- In the most severely ill preecclamptic women the function of the heart is that of a 70 year old woman
- So what is the effect of preeclampsia – mothers tested 2 years after delivery did not who recover their full heart function in the subsequent 2 years.
- Preeclampsia appears to advance the age related risk of heart disease and high blood pressure by 20 years.
Take home message – if you suffer from preeclampsia then you may have an underlying cardiovascular condition or restriction and you should take measures to rectify this improve heart function/health following the pregnancy as to prevent any CV complications 20-30 years down the line.
To watch the entire Ted Talk click here. https://youtu.be/ELET24AHnEg